Solutions to Your Post-Workout Fuelling Problems

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The food you eat after working out is an important decision to make. Exercise depletes your body of glycogen and causes micro tears to your muscles fibres, which can lead to muscle soreness and that ‘ouch, it hurts to take the stairs’ feeling.

One of the best ways to repair and rebuild your body after training is to feed it the right nutrients. Here’s your recovery plan, within the first hour after exercise, rehydrate by drinking some water and then consume 20-25g of protein to aid muscle repair. Add around 50-80g of carbohydrate to your protein-heavy snack to replenish glycogen stores and fuel your body until the next meal. Still confused? Here are the solutions to your post-workout fuelling problems.

Q: I’ve heard about post-workout foods. What should I eat?

It’s really important to eat after a workout, as exercise depletes your glycogen stores and breaks down muscle tissue. The right food will replenish energy levels and help repair damaged muscles. Carbohydrate fuel is essential for energy – fail to top up and you’ll feel sluggish all day! Protein is the nutrient that helps muscles to repair and regrow, which is particularly important for those who are weight training. Science shows there is a ‘golden hour’ after exercise in which your muscles are primed to absorb the most nutrients and enzymes from food. If you’re eating a meal, such as lunch or dinner, within this time, you shouldn’t need extra fuel. Opt for high GI carbohydrate fuel, such as wholemeal bread, and protein-heavy food, such as turkey. So, a turkey sandwich on wholemeal bread would make a great post-workout lunch. If you’re not having a meal for several hours after exercise, a small amount of carbohydrate and hit of protein is necessary. Bananas and nuts, a boiled egg on toast or a protein smoothie are all great post-workout options.

Q: Will eating after exercising make me gain a few pounds?

We talk about the importance of protein because it’s one of the best ways to build lean muscle. But excess calories from any source and that includes protein – will be stored as fat. Exercising doesn’t allow you to eat whatever you want, especially if you’re trying to lose or maintain a goal weight. Be smart about what you eat after exercise. If you’ve been for a three-mile run and are eating dinner in an hour, do you really need an extra meal to refuel? Probably not. But if you’re not eating lunch for four hours and you’ve just smashed an intense workout, a protein shake would make a great mid-morning snack. Planning and timing is everything when it comes to making wise food decisions.

Q: Is it better to get protein from real foods or shakes?

Protein is super-important. It helps to regulate your metabolism and is found in every cell tissue and organ we have. While protein won’t help you gain muscle – your workout does that – it will rebuild, repair and grow your muscles. So, if you’re not getting enough protein in your diet, it will be hard for your muscle size and strength to improve. Natural food sources are unprocessed and high in nutrients, so it’s a good idea to get as much of your protein requirements from foods such as eggs, meat or fish. If you can gobble down a few eggs or a tin of tuna after a workout, that’s the best option. However, research has shown that the body is primed for nutrient uptake in the hour after exercise – this is when you want to eat your post-workout food. For this reason, solid protein sources are not always the most convenient, plus they’re harder to digest than liquid products. Protein shakes will give you an on-the-go hit when you need it most.

Q: I’m baffled by all the different protein shakes. Which one should I choose?

We hear you – there are a lot of recovery shakes on the sports nutrition market. The key thing to look out for is a powder that contains all amino acids. There are 20, and eight of them are essential amino acids that the body can’t produce. The best-quality protein shakes contain all 20 – as do eggs, by the way. Try to weigh up the benefits of different shakes and work out how much protein is in each serving. Some brands bulk out their powders with carbohydrates, and these are considered to be more like meal replacement shakes than protein powders. A good starting point is with a simple whey concentrate powder, which will provide the muscle repairing nutrition you need. For a delicious post-workout shake that will provide your body with some energizing carbohydrates, whizz a scoop of whey protein with some berries and low-fat yoghurt and drink. Yum.

Q: I want to include more protein in my diet. How much do I need?

The amount of protein you need will depend on the level and intensity of your workout. As a rule of thumb, the more intense your workout, the more protein you’ll require. How much do you need exactly? Well, the daily allowance for an adult is 0.8g per kilogram of bodyweight (0.8g/kg). For a 58kg woman, this would mean consuming 46.4g of protein every day. As someone who exercises, you’ll need a bit more than the average – studies suggest 1-1.2g/kg of protein is sufficient for muscle recovery and repair. For a 58kg woman, this would mean consuming 58-69.6g of protein each day. It’s achievable to get this amount of protein through a healthy diet. However, a glass of milk has been shown to make a fantastic recovery shake because it contains the optimum ration of carbs to protein.

Best Muscle-Repairing Foods

This high-protein foodstuff will make a great addition to your healthy diet

  • Mackerel This oily fish is a good source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fats slow down the breakdown of protein after a workout, which will help you to maintain sufficient protein stores.
  • Edamame Beans These little beans are a great vegetable source of protein. They’re low in fat and contain all the essential amino acids needed for rebuilding muscle tissue.
  • Eggs They are the kings of natural protein foods. Eggs contain all 20 amino acids required for building and repairing muscle, plus the yolk is also a great source of vitamin D.
  • Venison This lean meat is not only a great source of protein, but it also contains vitamin B12. This vitamin plays a key role in forming red blood cells and converting food into energy.
  • Turkey This meat is a low-fat, high-protein food that contains glutamine, an amino acid found in muscle tissue. It’s a good source of branched chain amino acids (BCAAS) linked to optimal muscle growth.
  • Almond Butter This on-trend food is a good source of protein for vegetarians. As an added bonus, the nutty spread contains magnesium, which helps your muscles contract. Hooray.
  • Spirulina Full of nutrients, this green algae food can be found as a protein powder. It is 65% protein and a great source of antioxidants to help reduce post-workout soreness.
  • Quinoa This seed is an unusual vegetable source of protein because it contains all the essential amino acids without the fat. Boil it with a stock cube for a savoury dish that goes well with salads.